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Unfortunately, a recent news story by NJ101.5 got it all wrong about an increase in teacher healthcare premiums. We have nothing against NJ101.5, which usually does a good job reporting, but they failed to do basic research here and have obscured rather than clarified the facts.
The first sentence of the NJ101.5 piece reads: “New Jersey teachers in the state’s School Employees’ Health Benefits Program will be paying over 15% more for health coverage in 2023.” This is simply not true. Teachers will NOT be paying 15% more for health coverage. Thanks to a 2020 backroom deal (known as Chapter 44) between then-Senate President Sweeney and the NJEA, teachers’ contributions were changed from a percentage of healthcare premiums to a percentage of their salaries. As such, teachers are insulated from almost all of the premium increases.
NJ101.5 might have asked the New Jersey School Boards Association why they were the lone vote against the premium increase. Here’s NJSBA’s answer:
“Increases on the SEHBP would largely be paid by boards of education; many employees enrolled in it pay a percentage of their salary, not a percentage of the insurance premium, under the changes implemented under Chapter 44.”
Which means that the increases would largely be paid by property taxpayers.
Further, NJ101.5 is not at all curious why the NJEA is so muted in its response. As the article notes: “No questions were raised at Monday’s hearing …” The NJEA representative was present but had nothing to say. Rather the NJEA fed NJ101.5 a smokescreen about vendor reports, which NJ101.5 published chapter and verse. Think about it: if teachers were really seeing a 15% increase in healthcare costs, do you think the NJEA would remain silent? Of course not. It’s the same reason they did not participate in last week’s protest in Trenton.
Here’s the real story: the NJEA does not want property taxpayers to know that it is they who will be paying the bill for these premium increases. The NJEA is quite content with a news story that headlines that teachers will be paying a lot more for their healthcare – and feel the same pain as everyone else who is seeing inflation hit their healthcare costs.
It’s a complicated subject , but NJ101.5 should have done a better job. Rather than help spread the facts, they have obscured them – just as the NJEA wishes.